Tension has always been a big problem for me, with my work with horses and elsewhere. I don't like new experiences, and my heart always races when I think about it.
I was reading Many Misadventures' post on her talk at leadership camp, and it really got me thinking. If I let my unrelated tension seep into my riding, Blue will respond by getting tense himself. This, in turn, makes me more tense, and there we go in a vicious cycle!
So I've been working on ways to try and release that tension so that Blue and I can work together productively. I'd like to share them with you.
*There is nothing like barn drama. Unfortunately, when you take lessons with someone you are on the outs with, it makes your lesson more than a bit awkward. I have a habit of watching my friends ride (which is hard because almost all my best friends ride in my lessons!), so I've been stopping that and I try to focus on myself. I do let myself watch their courses, since when we're jumping we're going one at a time and Blue's on a loose rein anyway. I've also stopped worrying about what the people behind me are doing. I can only control the space in front of me.
*Grooming is a great stress-reliever. Do a thorough grooming of your horse before you hop on (though make sure to give yourself plenty of time, so you don't stress out more). Curry your daily worries away!
*Don't feel the need to ride in the ring all the time. A good hack out does wonders for both you and your horse's mental clarity. Take the time to see the sights. If you can't afford to leave your schooling for the day, then take some work to the trail! There are plenty of exercises you can use on the trail (shoulder-in, leg yields, circling when you're in fields) and your horse will love you forever if you get up off of his back when going uphill!
*At shows, don't sweat the small stuff. There's always the possibility that the judge didn't see your mistake! I try to ride with a never-look-back philosophy - when I'm in the saddle, I'm only concerned with the here and now. Detailed analysis, I save for the blog!
*Pick a song with a soothing rhythm to hum to yourself or sing in your head. It helps you get your mind off of things, if you're like me and you try too hard. I like to switch songs each ride, and I like to pick a song that will match the beats of the walk, trot, canter, and hand-gallop.
In other news, next Sunday I'm riding Blue in the annual horse show/county fair! I like to think that the main attraction is the horse show - otherwise it's a pretty lame fair. We've got riders showing each day. I may try to catch Saturday's show (a lot of my friends and some younger riders I've "taken under my wing" are showing that day) but I'm definitely going Monday to groom for my mentor (other than my instructor), who's taking the cross-training post to heart and trying her hand at Hopeful Jumpers on her 17hh TB gelding! I'm riding in Novice Hunter - I think Blue would pin better (or maybe even at all!) in Pleasure Horse but it's the last class of the day and none of the three rings have lights. :'( The nice thing is that we've begun to get a more forward, what my trainer calls a "hunt field canter" going and I've gotten to be more bold at riding to the fences. I no longer fear the long five - I embrace it as a challenge! I'm not sure how much the show ring will "jazz him up", so I'm taking my spurs just in case. I do actually kind of hope he needs them - I like to know that he's not fazed by all the people and other horses! They also really sharpen his responses. We've also been working on a very strong, forward hunter trot, complete with a frame that isn't induced by hand, but by leg pushing into a slightly resistant hand! Oh, these moments of ecstasy - I'm enlightened and feeling very Zen tonight.
That would be a great title for this post.
I'll update you tomorrow - I'm hacking with a close friend and her fat mare to see if we can't get some hillwork and conditioning in before the big show day! Time to get myself psyched up for 5 AM baths and braiding and that oh-so-stylish light blue Sportsmanship armband!
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